I had always wanted to go to Sri Lanka after sharing a flat with a Sri Lankan friend through uni. I convinced my partner (now husband) to go and after a bit if investigation we found a site where a driver took you around the island for 3 weeks, with accommodation included. It was ridiculously reasonable so we thought why not.
Our taxi driver, Mr de Silva (never once did we get to know his first name) was an interesting driver and person. He arrived to pick us up on 2 crutches – he had just been discharged from hospital after having broken his back and being in hospital for 6 months. Interesting start. Then it got even more fascinating.
He told us that he was a devout Buddhist and did not drink yet he stopped at every shrine, temple, and church (regardless of denomination) along the way, for the entire 3 weeks. He blessed himself and said a prayer every time. It didn’t take us very long to figure out that this was a very very good thing, as he was the most erratic driver we have ever seen.
He favoured pavements and going up wrong way streets. He liked to take on trains and to cross right in front of them. The best and most intriguing though, was his afternoon driving. It took us a few days to figure out what was happening. At about 2 ‘clock he stuck his foot down and gunned it, stopped at the next village and told us to go for a walk. It got the better of us and we followed him. He was going to the ‘turf accountant’.
We didn’t say anything for a couple of weeks, because we really liked him despite of, or because of his quirkiness, but we just followed him at times to make sure, and always he was off to the turf accountants. Eventually we asked him about this. He stopped his car. Told us to get out. We thought he was going to leave us stranded, but he walked around to the boot and got out a bottle of absinthe, poured some shot(s) and told us that he was placing bets on English horse races. An interesting take on devout Buddhism.
Another time we were wandering around a very small town and he had said he would be about an hour, but it wasn’t the afternoon. Then next thing we see him in a barber shop getting his hair dyed. He saw us, we bolted and it was never ever mentioned.
Despite all of his erratic and strange ways he was very good to us always. We met some people in Kandy and got into a discussion on which were the better wines, Australian or America. So we started sampling them both, bottle after bottle. Mr de Silva hovered like a mother hen and at times came up and said it was time to go. But we didn’t. I think it was when the bar had run out of all wines that we finally left. We were in so much trouble the next day, and nor were we very well. He gave us the cool treatment just like my mother used to do. Sorry, still does.
But we did make friends again. He invited us to his house to meet his family at the end of the trip in Colombo. They laid on a massive feast and then they left and ate in the kitchen. It was so dreadful, I hated it. I wanted them to eat with us and we asked them to, but apparently that was not the way.
So Mr de Silva was the most dreadful and erratic driver who drank and gambled despite his polytheistic beliefs and it was a sheer pleasure to have a holiday with him. And his hair didn’t look too bad either.
Guest post from our friends http://www.contentedtraveller.com
Gordon and Paula have been travelling ever since they met 10 years ago, and for some unknown reason are contented traveller(s). Gordon forgot the ‘s’. They represent the baby boomer/ empty nesters who are fit, free and financial. They can and do (m)any things. Their site arose from their love of travel and unusual adventures, but also, and most importantly their ability to embrace serendipity.